The BibliOdyssey Book

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The BibliOdyssey Book

It is my privilege and pleasure to announce that a book based on the this humble website is now in release and available for purchase by the general public. Interested persons should head to the publisher's site if they are in Europe/UK and to Amazon if they are not.

For those without credit cards or who are allergic to online financial transactions, the latest advice has discerning bookshops in both USA and UK receiving their stock by the second week of November, with the rest of the world to follow shortly thereafter. You may otherwise encourage your favourite bookshop to seek supply (and a measurable improvement in taste and status) direct from the publisher.

BibliOdyssey - the book cover

As you might expect, the book features eclectic and rare book illustrations derived from many digital repositories, accompanied by some background commentary. It is not simply a regurgitation of what is here in the archives, although about two thirds of the images have appeared on the site previously.

With pre-production topping out at somewhere over 500 years, BibliOdyssey might well be the slowest book ever published. The serious part of the journey has taken more than a year of team effort involving myself and the UK firm of FUEL Design, headed up by Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell.

When I was first contacted with the suggestion in August 2006 I admit that I was fairly skeptical. "Unpossible, surely?" "How do we get permission?" "Which repositories?" "Who do we contact?" "What laws do we need to know?" "Which images?" "Which countries?" "Thematic or chronological or what?" "What happens if they say no?" "What happens if they say yes?"

Where I only saw insurmountable difficulties, FUEL took the long view, to their credit, softly batting away my initial objections and sketching out a very rough plan for how the project might move forward. They picked out some images, I suggested some institutions, we wrestled over the illustration choices; I did most of the contacting and all of the writing and FUEL did the overall editing, designing and packaging.

So the process has really been about establishing a dialogue with a lot of different people and institutions and being open about our intentions. It probably helped that I've had occasional exchanges with universities and libraries since the site started, so there is a certain familiarity 'out there' about BibliOdyssey. The response to the project idea was overwhelmingly favourable, although individual institutional policies and legal technicalities were sometimes an impediment. Many people went out of their way to accommodate our requests for higher resolution images or supplied interesting background to the books and images or gave recommendations about alternative image choices. We are eternally grateful for their assistance.

The book (like the site) covers a very wide spectrum of styles, time periods and subject matter. You can expect everything from astronomy to zoology and from Art Nouveau to the Renaissance, in something reminiscent of what I call a multi-post (except on steroids and growth hormone and with better grooming habits and no noisy computer fan in the background). I like to think that the trajectory of the book aims somewhere roughly between our internet users' penchant for a concentrated package of beguiling ephemera and as an introductory overview of the cultural wealth accessible from web archives for luddites. [redacted marketspeak: "making it the ideal Christmas present for everybody"]

As a final point I'd offer that, while it might sound like a totally haphazard collection of unrelated visual material, the book is in fact much more of a cohesive and interrelated survey of illustration history than any loose-canon wording here might suggest. The book is also a beautiful product - FUEL have done a wonderful job in the designy-printy stakes, and my objectivity is of course unimpeachable as I was on the other side of the planet and had no role in this facet of production.

While I'm in this rare trumpet-blowing mode: I did an interview with the George Lucas Educational Foundation - Edutopia Magazine - back in July and although it doesn't specifically refer to the book, it was done at exactly the same time as I was writing the book's introduction (which is in fact mostly about the background to the BibliOdyssey website), so inevitably includes a few of the thoughts that re-surface in the book. Because I am nothing if not intellectually lazy. Phantom of the Optical.

Once more for luck..

∧∧∧∧∧Late addition: I was interviewed by Elatia Harris for 3QuarksDaily∧∧∧∧∧

No comments:

Post a Comment